I was watching Sportscentury on ESPN today that chronicled the life and NBA coaching career of the Detroit Pistons’ Larry Brown. What was most interesting about his life was how he reacted to what the narrator called the “postmodern athlete”. I first thought: “What the hell is a postmodern athlete?! Do they espouse various truths to the game of basketball or do they question if they are actually playing basketball at all? Do they borrow philosophies of football, rugby, or baseball into how they play basketball?” Well, they subsequently discussed the problem of Allen Iverson when Brown was a coach at the Philadelphia 76ers. Pretty much the two disputed how vital practice was and what it meant to play the game, I guess that makes Iverson “postmodern”. He challended the conventional system of Larry Brown and coaching altogether.
Larry Brown has been defined as a coaching nomad, as he has coached and lived in several places, never really staying still. What I found most intriguing about Brown was that he never simply wanted to coach to teach the X’s and O’s or to win all the time, instead he simply wanted to go and love and be loved and respected, he wanted a relationship with his players. I have been reading Don Miller’s book, Searching for God Knows What, and what he has continued to reiterate is that systematic theology does not work if we do not tell the narrative aspect of the biblical story and if we do not acknowledge the relational metaphor in Scripture. In Scripture, while God does teach morality and the path for right living, he, through the person and work of Jesus, makes a way for people to know him. God wants us in relationship, in a living and breathing relationship that has its twists and turns, highs and lows, valleys and peaks. This is so much more exciting than our mere knowledge about God. Don’t get me wrong, systematic theology has its vital place, but ultimately this whole story is about reconciliation and identity. Jesus is establishing God’s kingdom and calling us all to live under the banner of this story. How we attempt to identify ourselves will not matter a hill of beans until we identify ourselves with Christ, until we die to ourselves and get baptized in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Maybe we are too much like Iverson, thinking that we have it figured out and know how to “play the game”. Yet there is only one who can give us our true identity, and he calls us to his own story so that we may truly find ourselves.